Stranger Things VR review: A beautiful but hollow trip

Stranger Things VR has cool vibes but shallow gameplay, and it's not accessible unless you're a big fan of the show already.

Stranger Things VR promotional image showing Vecna and Eleven
(Image: © Tender Claws)

Android Central Verdict

Stranger Things VR delivers exactly what it promises: It offers a new perspective on the beloved Netflix thriller for fans of the show, while leaving outsiders behind. It's a gorgeous, short spin on the show with some absurdly satisfying sound design.


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    Gorgeous visuals and environments

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    Spectacular sound design

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    Fun MR mode

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    Well-directed cutscenes


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    One-note gameplay

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    Unapproachable for newcomers

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Boasting some of the coolest graphics I've seen in a standalone VR game, Stranger Things VR delivers on the demonic, trippy experience you'd want from a horror-tinged experience set in the world of Stranger Things. Even as someone who's not a fan, there's a lot to love about this short jaunt into another world.

Being a sci-fi-loving member of Gen Z — the generation that inherited nostalgia for the 8-bit-laden, mall-going, synthy, Spielbergesque facsimile of the 80s that's been sold to Gen Z ever since our parents showed us Galaga, E.T., and Madonna despite not even being able to remember the turn of the millennia — it's surprising that I never got into Stranger Things. Netflix's blockbuster sci-fi drama was targeted at people my age when it first came out, but it came around just a bit too late. I was working my first job, learning to drive, and (most importantly) falling head-over-heels in love with video games. I had bigger fish to fry.

I wasn't sure if Stranger Things' jump into VR would hold up as a standalone game but it looked cool enough that I wanted to at least give it a shot, even just to see if it stands on its own merits. 

What I found was that its visuals and sound design enhance the otherwise simple mechanics to make this brief stint as a super-powered demon-child worthwhile. But it may still be a mixed bag for those who haven't watched an episode of the show.

What we liked...

You start in a lab, strapped to a chair. A big, blinding light obscures a mysterious man in a lab coat, who asks you to look within your mind and dive down the rabbit hole of your subconscious. The lab quickly fades as you start playing around with Henry's telekinetic abilities and get accustomed to Stranger Things VR's approachable controls.

This is where Stranger Things VR really wowed me; even simple stuff like pushing and pulling objects with telekinesis looks and feels so damn cool, thanks to the lighting and sound effects used to transmit the feeling of telekinesis that plenty of VR games ignore.

Instead of pursuing a realistic look, objects and environments in Stranger Things VR are all cel-shaded, allowing for more room for developer Tender Claws to play with what's satisfying in a game, rather than what's true to the show. 

Holding an object in front of you with your mind just to hear the low thrum that your powers manifest before crushing it with a quick, simple turn of the wrist feels so cool. That's all thanks to this game's top-notch presentation.

Both visual and audio effects do a lot of heavy lifting to spice up Stranger Things VR's largely uninventive mechanics and make even the most rote gameplay sequences more engaging. The cel-shaded style allows for much more experimentation with reality-bending effects and spectacularly realized environments that look good because they don't rely on high pixel density and high-resolution textures as much as they do on cool lighting effects, allowing for tight corridors to ooze spooky atmosphere. 

They also made the game's default, stick-based movement much more comfortable than usual, which is highly important because Stranger Things VR has you moving through a lot of tight, twisting corridors and smaller environments.

As you run around Henry's hellish mind palace, you fight handfuls of Demogorgon by using your telekinetic abilities to hurl anything and everything you can to kill them. After defeating the denizens of this alternate reality, you'll jump into their minds to experience something that pushes the story forward or references something from the show. These transitions and their environments are really cool. One minute, you're with your typical nuclear family; the next you're in a rotting living room riddled with sludgy tentacles. The whole thing's very trippy in the best possible way, even if what's happening isn't always super clear.

What we didn't like...

Stranger Things VR game screenshot

(Image credit: Tender Claws)

Stranger Things VR isn't very compelling from a mechanical standpoint. While its sound design and art style may enhance the feeling of pushing and pulling objects with your mind, it's nothing very new to a VR game. At a basic level, it executes these mechanics better than most VR games I've played thanks to the aforementioned polish, but there isn't enough variance or depth to how those mechanics are used like there is in other games.

It's also often very difficult to follow as a non-Stranger Things fan. Sure, there are plenty of individual scenes with cool direction and good writing and acting, but in not knowing the character and the lore, I lost the connective thread pulling each vignette together.

What we're mixed on...

Stranger Things VR also ships with a short mixed-reality mode as a bonus. Because most of it's set in the real world, it doesn't have the same visual draw as the base game. However, it does see you opening portals into Hawkins, Indiana in your living room which is a fun trick, even if it's nothing very new in the grand scheme of things. As soon as the novelty of seeing a diner through a hole in your wall wears thin, there's not much to see here beyond a few creatures flying around your living room.

You will eventually leave your four corners behind, but it doesn't result in anything especially interesting, especially compared to the main game. That said, its story doesn't seem as hinged on knowing what happens in the show and feels much more approachable as a newcomer. A detached character delivers brief, comical narration through a tape recorder, which adds a little flair that makes this especially short 30-ish minute experience worth checking out on its own, especially if you haven't tried out MR in other games yet.

Did it get me to check out the show?

Not really. As much as I wish I better understood what was happening here, there isn't enough happening outside of its story and presentation to bring me back in. No shade to all the Stranger Things fans out there, but based on what I could glean from the game's story (and a quick skim of the Fandom wiki), I'd need to watch all four seasons of this show to fully understand the context, which is a bit too big of an ask for me right now.

Should you buy it?

Maybe! At the end of the day, if you haven't watched Stranger Things, this game probably isn't for you. But if you like wandering cool environments and shutting your brain off to chuck around apples and suitcases as you fight off DnD-inspired enemies, you should definitely check this game out. 

That said, if you're already a fan of the show, there's no reason not to give it a shot. No, it's not one of the best games on Meta Quest, but while I can't speak to the quality of this game's story as compared to the show, I can say that its cutscenes are generally pretty fun at the very least. I just wish I had a better understanding of what's going on.


Stranger Things VR

Stranger Things VR is one of the best-looking games I've played on my Meta Quest 2. It looks and sounds incredible and is sure to give any fan of the show a fun, short experience that's worth the price of admission.

Buy it on: Meta Quest

Charlie Wacholz
Freelance Writer

Charlie's a freelance contributor at Android Central from Milwaukee, WI.